El Salvador

CISPES National Office update on February 13 earthquake

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Situation Report
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Posted
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As of this evening we have more information regarding the earthquake that struck El Salvador this morning at about 8:30am local time. The quake measured 6.6 in magnitude and was centered about 18 miles form San Salvador in the department of La Paz, near the municipality of San Pedro Nonualco. Reports that we have received indicate that the departments of La Paz, San Vicente, and Cuscatlán are the most affected. It seems as though this earthquake is not an aftershock related to the January 13th quake, but actually a separate earthquake. This is because the seismic activity from today's quake ran along different earthquake fault lines.
The death toll as of 6:00pm Tuesday evening was 92 and is expected to rise. At least 714 people are reported injured according to government sources. Reports from the Association of Rural Communities for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES), however, speak of at least 800 people treated in hospital in the city of San Vicente. Hospitals and clinics in Cojutepeque are reported to be unable to deal with the numbers of people seeking assistance. As the hardest hit areas are located in rural zones, it may take some time for the full extent of today's quake to reach the outside world.

Department updates:

San Vicente:

The department of San Vicente appears to have been the hardest hit by today's earthquake. Initial reports speak of damage or destruction of 60% of the buildings in the departmental capital, San Vicente City. Ninety percent of the houses in the municipalities of Santo Domingo, San Cayetano, Guadalupe, Verapaz, and Texistepeque have been damaged or destroyed

The Center for International Solidarity (CIS) reports that every adobe house in San Vicente was damaged and that tremors continue ever three minutes in San Vicente City

La Paz:

At least 50 people are reported dead in the municipality of San Juan Tepozantes Ten other municipalities the department have been affected.

Cuscatlán:

The department capital, Cojutepeque, is the hardest hit municipality in the department, along with Candelaria and San Pedro Perulapan. In Candeleria, outside Cojutepeque, a school collapsed killing five students and their teacher.

Governmental intransigence in response to disasters:

The response of the Salvadoran government to today's earthquake and the January 13th disaster has been to close ranks. President Francisco Flores intransigently refused to open the process of relief and reconstruction to dialog among various social sectors. The FMLN made a proposal to work jointly with the ARENA government on a reconstruction plan. FMLN coordinator Fabillo Castillo even offered to put the FMLN under the direction of the government, with the conditions that a single reconstruction plan and team to implement it be created, to work on the reconstruction plan, but President Flores refused the offer. When asked why he was excluding the FMLN and other social sectors trying to offer their help in the reconstruction plan, Flores said the process was a not political negotiation.

Last week the Salvadoran Ministry of Public Works (MOP) forced out 7,000 of its 8,000 workers through a "voluntary" retirement plan. Workers were pressured to sign retirement agreements. Many spoke of being to confused as to what they were actually signing. Both today's quake and the one in January devastated El Salvador's infrastructure, especially roads, schools, the health care sector, and the water system. . The ARENA government's plans for dealing with this crisis will be to sell the repair contracts to private businesses. The forced retirement of seven eighths of the ministry's work force when El Salvador's highways and roads lie buried and damaged shows how profits come before people in the ARENA government's neoliberal schemes.

Full speed ahead with dollarization:

In a press conference this afternoon President Francisco Flores announced that his government has no plans to suspend the dollarization of the Salvadoran economy, which started on January 1st. Under this process (officially called the "Law of Monetary Integration"), U.S. dollars are now legally accepted for all commercial and official transactions. The government stills plans to use $435 million dollars in foreign currency reserves to move the dollarization process ahead. These funds could be put to use for relief and reconstruction if the government stopped dollarizing the economy.

Hard-line: pay your debts at all cost:

Flores said the Salvadoran government would not ask for forgiveness of its foreign debts. He said El Salvador has been punctual and disciplined in payments of its debts. The government does not want this fiscally responsible image to be damaged. For this reason, said Flores, El Salvador will not ask for forgiveness of its foreign debts.